There are few greater pleasures than picking apart a hilariously terrible movie with your friends — which is probably why How Did This Get Made?, the podcast hosted by comedians Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas, has been going strong since 2010. The three pals (Raphael and Scheer are married; it’s all very adorable) pick a bad movie, watch it, and shred it; there are nearly 200 episodes to date in which the gang dissects everything from contemporary blockbusters like Hurricane Heist to sci-fi flops like Ultraviolet to classic so-bad-it’s-hilarious movies like Mariah Carey’s notorious 2001 star vehicle Glitter, or Britney Spears’s infamous foray into film, Crossroads.
Scheer, Mantzoukas, and Raphael did their first live show at L.A.’s Largo in 2011, and since then have sporadically toured a live version of the podcast. On July 18, the trio will host a live taping of HDTGM? at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where they’ll perform two shows back to back. The Voice spoke to Scheer and Mantzoukas (Raphael was unavailable, not overlooked!) about taking their show on the road and the bonding power of a truly awful movie.
Tell me about the movies you’ve picked for these BAM shows.
Paul Scheer: We have an amazing intern who does the hardest job of HDTGM; she’s an unsung hero. She watches so many movies and gives us her selections. We saw we had [shows booked at] the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and what better way to celebrate that than by watching Pavarotti’s first and only acting role in Yes, Giorgio, a romantic comedy.
What’s it about?
PS: It’s about an opera singer who moves to New York and loses his voice. And love brings it back. And for the late show it’s a movie called Beastly, and Beastly is a teen take on Beauty and the Beast. So the thematic connection is like, these two impossible, brutish kind of monsters that heal themselves through love.
Who’s your intern?
PS: Her name is Avaryl Halley. She runs this [account] on YouTube called Movie Bitches and they’re known for their RuPaul’s Drag Race recaps, which are pretty fantastic. And she’s also the person who, if you’re familiar with the show, does amazing stuff — like, Jason in a show said, “I would love to see Ladybugs but a David Lynch version,” and she edited an amazing trailer of Ladybugs as directed by David Lynch.
Why did you decide to start doing a live version of the podcast?
Jason Mantzoukas: For us it was a no-brainer. All of us are very seasoned live performers, we’re very comfortable in front of an audience, we’ve spent a lot of time together onstage in shows at UCB and so forth. We did it at Largo in Los Angeles, and I was very pleased and heartened that not only people came, but people would be like, “We drove down from San Francisco,” or “We flew from Seattle.” That was a real indication that this could travel.
PS: It helps put it in perspective. We’ve been doing this podcast for a long time. Live podcasts now are kind of the norm — you have Pod Save America doing Radio City Music Hall. But when we were starting, we were the first podcast that had done Largo. Not to be like, Old Man Podcast, but when we first started doing it, it was just different. We felt like we needed to dress it up. What we realized was, people are really enjoying just watching the podcast.
JM: Podcasting is such an intimate thing. Something I hadn’t anticipated is, the fans are excited to be meeting and hanging out with each other. This thing I normally do alone when I’m folding laundry or at the gym, I’m instead surrounded by people who also share in all the inside jokes, have also been having this same experience privately. It’s fun to watch people get excited about that.
Is there a lot of interaction with the audience during a live show?
PS: The thing that’s fun about the live shows is everyone comes prepared. I’d say over 70 percent of our audience has a sheet of paper or notebook with them that has their thoughts on the movie, which is important because at a certain part of the podcast, we go out to the audience — hey, what do you guys think? What did we miss?
JM: It’s not at all a passive audience. They come with notes, they’ve meticulously watched and researched the movie, made homemade T-shirts, they’ll make posters. It almost feels like the fandom that one would associate with some of the movies we do, like The Room or these participatory film experiences.
PS: I think podcasts in general breed a very nice audience. I’m constantly surprised by, and kind of blown away by, the people who are in full costume. Seeing them do some cosplay for a movie like Yes, Giorgio will be really fun.
The show reminds me of one of my favorite old columns on this website Videogum that no longer exists, called “The Hunt for the Worst Movie of All Time.” I honestly feel my love of this column helped make me a critic. Has doing this podcast changed the way you think about criticism, whether it’s criticism of your own movies or just criticism in general?
PS: The thing that I love about that column, and what we do in our show, is it comes from an ultimate love of movies. The thing that turns me off about criticism is when it feels like it’s coming from a place of anger, or just shitty for shitty’s sake — I want to be that line on Rotten Tomatoes that’s a snarky comment.
I’ve been doing this show with Amy Nicholson, who’s a critic, and I love reading her stuff. We’ve been [talking about] good movies on this show Unspooled. One of the most interesting things that we’ve found is, a lot of great movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Citizen Kane and Wizard of Oz get these kind of bad or mediocre reviews [at the time]. One person who’s been amazing for me is Pauline Kael, who will be like, “I think Platoon is a shitty movie, but I think Oliver Stone is a really good director.”
JM: Growing up, I watched Siskel and Ebert review the week’s movies, I read all the reviews in the Boston Globe, the Boston Phoenix, and Rolling Stone. Now, we live in a world in which there is criticism everywhere. We are overwhelmed by criticism. While I know that we fall into some category of that, I hope that people are coming to us for enjoyable content, not necessarily a critical eye on these movies.
Are there movies that you know are bad but have too much affection to submit them to the HDTGM treatment? Like, I love the movie Elizabethtown, but I recognize that it’s terrible in many ways.
JM: I love the movie Ladyhawke, with Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer. I remember as a kid just loving it. I’m sure it’s not good and is worthy of being on the podcast, but I just had such genuine, deep love for it, and would watch it all the time as a VHS rental.
PS: That’s what I love about this show — we get excited for these movies. You can still find fun stuff, even if they’re not critically the best.
JM: Or critically the worst. Sometimes movies that are really very bad, I would not want to do either, because it’s joyless. There is a joylessness to trying to do Avatar: The Last Airbender, because it’s so bad it’s genuinely uninteresting. What makes a movie good for us is people taking big swings, and it doesn’t land. That’s interesting to talk about.
Do you ever regret featuring a movie on the podcast?
JM: A couple of times in the beginning we just chose movies that I think, like I said, Avatar: The Last Airbender, I just feel was not a great choice.
You really don’t like that movie.
JM: It just was boring.
PS: We bring it up a lot because that was the movie that I think really was our turning point — like we have to vet these a little bit better. The only other one I would put in that category is, we did Sharknado, the first one, because we’re like, we gotta talk about this movie. And then it felt like they kept forcing it. I think the first one was organic, and then they started going, we’ve got to go crazier. That sort of stops being fun.
Have you ever walked out of a movie because it was so bad?
PS: I went to see this action movie called The Last Action Hero, it was an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, and I got so close to walking out but I just sat in the last row. I couldn’t pull the trigger on leaving.
JM: Going to the movies as a kid was such a special, awesome thing. If I’m in a movie that’s actively bad I feel like I can’t leave. I have to see this through; I’ve made some sort of contract with this movie. I still feel that way.
Fair enough. I walked out on K-PAX, but I guess you guys are nobler than I.
JM: I would not have gone to see K-PAX.
I was too young to choose the movie!
PS: I saw K-PAX on a date.
JM: Oh my god.
How was the date?
PS: It was great. It’s so funny, the first date that June and I ever went on, I wanted to go see Million Dollar Baby and she wanted to see this movie called A Love Song for Bobby Long, which was John Travolta playing this alcoholic Southerner. I always look back at that movie and think, that was a great connection in our relationship because we pretty much chatted back and forth throughout that movie, and that connected us so much better than just watching Million Dollar Baby.